The main characters of "Rust and Bone," played by Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, have names, but they might as well go by the title's featured elements. They're both broken and beaten people, their wounds â€“ both emotional and physical â€“ covered with gritty, tough calluses. Yet somehow, beneath all that hurt and pain, they find a way to feel, love and survive.
French director Jacques Audiard presents a hard, rough tale, beautifully shot and guided by two captivating lead performances, but there's something missing. For all of its seemingly natural and realistic grit, a strenuously heavy hand for drama pulls "Rust and Bone" down. It's less of a serious movie than a movie that wants to be serious. I don't want to use the dreaded p-word, but it's unfortunately the one that fits best: pretentious.
Schoenaerts (from last year's "Bullhead") plays Ali, a wannabe kickboxer suddenly put in charge of his young son (Armand Verdure). Ali has almost no money for himself, much less for a child, so the two move in with his estranged sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) while Ali attempts to find a job in between trips to the gym and quick one-night stands.
He eventually wrangles a job as a bouncer at a popular nightclub, where he meets StÃ©phanie (Golden Globe nominee Marion Cotillard), a killer whale trainer at a French SeaWorld. He's graceless and awkward. She's bloody and bruised after a fight at the club. Things don't go far, and the two don't appear too intent on seeing each other again.
That is, until StÃ©phanie suffers a terrible accident at SeaWorld that leaves her without both of her legs. In her loneliness, she gives Ali a call, and the two form a vaguely sweet relationship from their broken selves â€“ complicated by Ali's immaturity and responsibilities.
Audiard's last movie, the gritty prison drama "A Prophet," won itself an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film with its intense performances and authentic story with a few ethereal touches thrown in for art's sake. "Rust and Bone" plays much the same way, for better and for worse.
The French writer-director captures some beautiful shots â€“ orcas slowly flying through the water, a bloody tooth skittering and spinning across the pavement â€“ but he struggles to integrate them into his story. StÃ©phanie's big accident, a gorgeous but messy blur of images, suffers from emphasizing art over coherence. He has a similar problem with his soundtrack, with Bon Iver and strangely Katy Perry often intruding on the action. "A Prophet" sometimes had the same problem, but maybe I just like Turner Cody's "Corner of My Room" more than "Firework."
Where "Rust and Bone" really shows its wear, however, is in the story. Its source material is a collection of short stories by Craig Davidson, and as adapted by Audiard and his "A Prophet" co-writer Thomas Bidegain, it feels like it. The screenplay attempts to cover several relationships and story elements over its two-hour running time, and the emotion gets lost in the process. Ali's son disappears for large portions of the film, so when the movie turns its focus toward their bond, the audience's connection just isn't there.
It doesn't help that most of the material is so steeped in heavy seriousness that it pangs more of indie importance rather than a natural story of wounded people struggling to heal.
Luckily, most of the film's focus is on the relationship between Cotillard and Schoenaerts, and they don't hit a false note. Cotillard is mesmerizing, finding the wounded, bitter and raw humanity left inside StÃ©phanie after her horrid accident. The audience really feels like it is witnessing a woman heal before its eyes. Schoenaerts is her equal. Ali can be selfish and caring â€“ sometimes in the same moment â€“ not realizing how important he is to the people around him. It's a hard role, played with crucial sympathy.
Together, the two make "Rust and Bone" work. Even when the story feels off, Cotillard and Schoenaerts are on, making their complicated relationship come off the screen. Sometimes they're sweet. Other times, they're tragic.
But they're always fascinating to watch, and when Audiard's visual ideas bind with their performances â€“ Cotillard's beautiful return to the orcas, Schoenaerts's harrowing ice skating trip with his son â€“ you get a glimpse of a great movie. Those glimpses, however, can be exhausting to find through all the important drama â€“ with important written in all caps.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published May 26, 2016
Indeed, the "Saved by the Bell" child star and now Port Washington resident Dustin Diamond was taken back into custody yesterday afternoon by the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office, detained on a "probation violation."
Published May 26, 2016
Get ready for an overload of adorable, as the Milwaukee County Zoo introduced its newest baby giraffe, named Zola - a word of African origin meaning "to love" - to the world.
Published May 26, 2016
Milwaukee Film announced that it will host the world premiere of "Milwaukee 53206," a documentary chronicling the lives of those who live in the 53206 zip code, which has the highest rate of incarceration for African American males in the country.
Published May 24, 2016
A UWM graduation video featuring new grads dancing around Milwaukee to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop The Feeling" has racked up a ton of views - one of which must've been JT himself, as he took to Twitter to congratulate the new graduates.
Published May 22, 2016
According to Greg Mclean, "The Darkness" comes from a true story passed along to him first-hand. Judging by the results, maybe someone was just recalling the plot of "Poltergeist" to him. Or an infinite number of scarier haunted house tales from before.
Published May 18, 2016
Milwaukee native Bay Dariz's plan was to become a star musician, then turn into a movie mogul. The stage star part didn't quite happen, but no bother; he's already jumped to movie producer status with his feature film debut "Welcome to Happiness."
Published May 18, 2016
Save for a visit from a street-corner preacher, a trip to the bus stop rarely qualifies as a religious experience. However, those taking the bus to or from the Cathedral Square stop on the corner of Wells and Jackson might sense a little extra spirit.
Published May 17, 2016
While it was called "a dialogue," Tuesday's hour-long conversation between State Rep. Dale Kooyenga and MTEA executive director Lauren Baker, hosted by Marquette University's Eckstein Hall, sure resembled a debate - an often politely testy one.
Published May 16, 2016
How does Harry Connick Jr. kick back and relax the morning after a Saturday night show at the Riverside Theater? Apparently he cures his custard craving, as he tweeted out that he stopped by Leon's Frozen Custard for a sweet treat - and then some.
Published May 12, 2016
In between chats about her new movie "Money Monster," Jodie Foster dropped quite a bombshell last night on "Conan": The two-time Oscar winner and L.A. native is a Packer fan.